Weight Gain in the Time of Corona
Looking in the mirror as I was getting changed yesterday (ironically, into exercise clothes), I was a little shocked to catch a glimpse of the Pillsbury Doughboy staring back at me. And while I do think he’s very cute, I don’t particularly wish to resemble him.
Five weeks of lockdown have taken their toll on my body. Pre-Corona, I walked between 3 and 5 km per day, did 1 hour of low-impact exercise at home, and went to dance class 2-3 times a week. Corona not only obliterated my exercise regimen, it also did a number on my self-discipline. I lazily abandoned the daily hour of morning exercise I’d been consistently doing for the past 6 years. Adding insult to injury, I consumed more food than necessary (and – it goes without saying, right? – more junk food than usual).
Less exercise and more food… surprise, surprise… resulted in a Pillsbury Doughboy body.
Because I know there are a lot of women out there who will identify with this, particularly at this time, I want to give you the good news, as I see it.
The good news has to do with “set point” theory.
What is the “set point” theory of body weight?
Most people’s weight tends to fluctuate within a range of about 5-10 pounds. The “set point” theory about body weight refers to a specific weight to which our bodies return, time and again, after gaining or losing weight. “Set point” theory is at least part of the reason it’s so challenging to keep weight off permanently.
When we gain weight, our bodies automatically expend more energy on all the routine biological processes necessary to keep us alive. Our bodies also increase body temperature (again, to waste surplus energy), and release hormones to curb our appetite. All this occurs inside of us naturally, without any conscious intervention on our part, in order for us to lose the excess weight and get our bodies back to the “set point” weight. This is a part of homeostasis, the body’s natural regulation of itself to maintain the balance within.
Alternatively, when we lose weight, our bodies utilize less energy on routine biological processes. They lower body temperature to save energy. And they release hormones to increase hunger, so that we eat more food. The ultimate goal being the return to the higher “set point” weight our bodies are used to.
(Important side note: It is possible to change your “set point”, both to lower it and to raise it, but it will require time and effort. Even if you have been at a higher weight for years and you aim to lower your “set point”, it can be done! Just be prepared to experience hunger and overcome certain natural cravings for a period of time while your body loses weight and adapts to a new, lower “set point”.)
And the good news is…? The good news is that if you’ve just gained this weight, your body “wants” to get rid of it. If you’ve just gained this weight, your body is already in the process of helping you release it. Your metabolism has gone up, as has your temperature (don’t worry, not enough to keep you out of a supermarket*), and if you pay attention to hunger cues, you will notice that you’re not as hungry as usual. If you obey those hunger cues, and eat less now, you will most likely find that it’s not all that difficult to take off the newly-gained excess weight.
As we slowly head out of lockdown – this experience unlike any other – and get back to a semblance of regular life, I want to encourage all you other Pillsbury Doughboys out there.
Stop beating yourself up. Forgive yourself for having gained the weight. And get back on track (whatever that looks like for you), knowing that your body is on your side, that it “wants” to release that extra weight, and that it’s already in the process of doing so.
* In Israel, body temperature is measured by a security guard prior to being granted entrance into certain spaces, like supermarkets.